ANKARA -- At his shop in the ancient citadel of this busy capital city, Satilimish Sutchuoglu and three fellow carpet sellers gather to drink tea and trade forecasts of economic doom.

Tourists, who provide most of his bread and butter, have been scarce since Sept. 11 in Turkey, a secularly governed Muslim country that straddles Europe and Asia. And if the talk from Washington is to be believed, things could get worse just as tourist season is about to start. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited this NATO-member state recently to discuss the possibility of forcing President Saddam Hussein from power in neighboring Iraq, and a war would be a blow to an already tottering economy.

"I haven't lost my hope yet for the tourist industry, but if a war happens, then we'll run into a disaster," said Sutchuoglu. "I would hate to see a war, because I know we won't have any business, and I'm already in debt from replacing my kitchen cupboards."